Another in our occasional series of interesting things that have popped up on the internet…
Regular readers will be familiar with Mario’s ‘brother’ Regie the Renault 4cv, so we are always interested when something about 4cv’s catch our eye on the internet. Like Fiats, there were many different derivatives of the 4cv with unusual bodies but the one we spotted today really stood out.
Yes this strange quirky looking car is based on a 4cv. The 4cv Labourdette Vutotal was unveiled by the French President at the Paris Salon in 1949 or 50 where its design and styling were considered progressive. The Labourdette’s were a french family involved in coachbuilding and then very early car design. The Grandson, was visionary body-builder Jean-Henri Labourdette born in 1888 and who became well known for his bold transformations of prestige vehicles such as Bugatti and Rolls Royce.
The company had developed a glued frameless windscreen and front door glass which eliminated the A-frame, this ‘Vutotal’ (total view) design was patented in 1935 and appeared in many prototypes but never in a production vehicle. After the war Labourdette didn’t really resume their coachbuilding business but Jean-Henri devoted his time to research and inventions. He eventually retired to Grasse, near Nice, which by coincidence is where we found Regie.
The 4cv Vutotal was a three seater convertible with the single backseat turned through 90º and the famous panoramic windows. The headlights were built in under glass. It proved too revolutionary and never went into production.
Two years later Labourdette went on to make a more conventional convertible version of the 4cv. Only two doors but the front end is the same as the production model and you can see the famous star wheels which were fitted on the early cars. This was two years before Renault produced their own factory built convertible which they only made under 500 of, in 1954. Regie is actually, an after market convertible, made post factory to order, similar to what Crayford Conversions did to many Fords in the 60s and 70’s.
The second in our new series of wonderful vehicles we’ve spotted on the internet, would love to own but probably never will…
1949 Georges Irat convertible by Labourdette This lovely car turned up recently at the Artcurial Auction at this years Retromobile. It’s a prototype and so a one off and very unlikely to join our collection. It fetched €57,216 in the February sale.
Georges Irat was a French car producer from 1921-1953. They weren’t very successful and had financial difficulties. The companies biggest success was a small roadster produced in the 30’s with a Ruby engine although less than 400 were produced.
During the war the company experimented with electric vehicles while making industrial motors. It was during this time that the revolutionary prototype, mounted on a magnesium frame was developed and first appeared at the 1946 Paris Motor Show with a 1100cc flat-four engine, possibly a Ruby from their earlier roadster.It was shown again in 1947 with a revised front, new wheels and revised styling.A third prototype appeared in 1949 with a 2 Litre engine, no bumpers and a fixed glass cover over the center-mounted headlamps but the design never made it into production, partly due to lack of materials after the war and the government not approving it. Years later the body coach built by Labourdette was found in the old Georges Irat factory and a Simca Eight chassis was used to underpin the car so it could be used. It is now powered by a 2L Simca engine and is reported to have a top speed of 150kph.The model sold looks immaculate and has been beautifully restored. There is some wonderful detail in the car and it’s small size and streamlined shape make it very desirable.Georges Irat did go on to produce a few other cars including this 1950 Barquette which I cannot find any information about. In the early 50’s Georges Irat moved the company to Morocco and ended up building small Jeep like vehicles conceived by Emile Petit, these were known as La Voiture du Bled. While researching this blog this handful of pics turned up, taken in 2007, the car is obviously red, not the white of the original or the restored version but it has the bumpers of the earlier prototype. So I don’t know if it’s an earlier prototype or has just been restored to the version that was auctioned – if anyone knows, please let us know…
In the last post we told you about how we restored Mario’s brother Regie the 4cv. Well two years after in 1996, the Renault 4cv as a model celebrated it’s 50th anniversary and of course Regie and the humans wanted to join in!
The event was being held at Renault’s Test Track, the Centre Technique et d’Essais Renault at Aubevoye, France, so we set off via a Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry, followed by a fairly short drive to the venue which was about half way between Rouen and Paris and a night in a nearby hotel. The next morning as we approached the event we saw 4cv’s going in all directions, now bearing in mind we had only ever seen one 4cv before this, it was quite extraordinary. We stopped for fuel and there were three other 4cv’s filling up! As far as I can remember there were nearly 500 at the celebration and they had come from all over Europe, we felt very sorry for the Swiss car which arrived with a very large dent in the front having run up the back of another 4cv on the way to the event. Unfortunately it was rather wet but that didn’t diminish the sight of 4cv’s stretching into the distance along the test track. Renault were superb hosts and provided food and drink for the whole weekend, the whole event including accommodation was a really reasonable cost too. In Europe and especially France the car manufacturers seem to support the classic car movement much more than they do here.
There was an exhibition in a marquee with some great historical documents and some display cars including some of the special bodied versions and a very early Alpine which was built on a 4cv. Many of the cars had interesting trailers and luggage racks, probably a necessity for travelling a long way in the small car. Regie got a lot of attention and it was interesting seeing him with an original factory convertible. There were all sorts of modified versions on display as well. The weekend included runs out, entertainment from a display team of modern Renaults, auto jumble and a Concours de Elegance competition. In France there is none of this British nonsense of shiny stuff and having the screws aligned, the whole thing is much more fun and involves people dressing up and doing little set pieces to an audience of judges who award marks. It could be as simple as a Gentleman opening the door for his lady but some entrants went completely to town and there was a car which appeared to drive itself and several children with matching toy cars which was a guaranteed extra 10 points!
We had met a delightful family in another convertible, Jean-Pierre and Jeanie Vincent with their children Remy and Sydney. They were from America but at the time were living in Switzerland and had acquired the 4cv (they took it back to the States when they returned). They were great fun and we all got on very well, they looked fabulous and won the competition to our delight – I think a combination of a convertible car and two cute kids was just too much for the judges!
In the evening we went to a local sports hall for the Gala Dinner. Armed guards protected the cars while we had a superb 6 course meal with champagne and wines before an awards presentation. Bearing in mind this was 18 years ago, drink drive laws in France weren’t that strict but we were very aware of how much alcohol was being offered and how much the French in particular were consuming and we were being very careful knowing we had to drive back to the hotel later. When we came to leave we discovered that there was a Police escort ready to lead nearly 500 4cv’s with their owners back to their hotels! It wouldn’t happen now and it certainly wouldn’t have happened in the UK but everybody had had a good time and everybody and every car got back safely.Before we left to go home all the cars were lined up around the track for a photo opportunity.All in all it was a fabulous weekend, brilliantly organised with typical French hospitality and we were already looking forward to the next one…